It pays to take risk

I just returned from my first business trip and my first in-person industry conference in 18 months. I was skeptical about going, and whether there would be any other attendees. But I’m coming back full of ideas, new connections, and renewed confidence to think big.

It was a risk for the ANA to hold its Masters of B2B Marketing conference in-person in the midst of the rising Delta variant. And to think that people would come to an event in Phoenix, AZ in mid-July, where the average temperature is over 100 degrees. But those who did attend–and there were at least 100–were richly rewarded. They were a group of smart, engaged B2B marketers from diverse industries and backgrounds, ready to share ideas. There was a level of candor in the group that I haven’t always experienced. And the ANA mitigated the risk by giving attendees social distancing choices and providing an option to attend virtually.

I was struck by a common theme among the speakers at this event: how they challenged conventional wisdom and it paid off. They spoke about facing problems that required them to think outside the box with no standard norms on which to rely. They spoke about the anxiety of uncertain outcomes. And they spoke about the demands of gaining consensus for their breakthrough ideas. But the payoffs were unmistakable to their brands, their bottom lines, and their personal fulfillment.

  • Brent Reinhard, CMO of JPMorgan Chase small business, shared how his bank met the deluge of PPP loan demand and built a platform and new loan process in eight days that enabled thousands of small businesses to receive the loans and stay afloat.
  • Kevin Sellers, CMO of PING Identity, shared his company’s new brand campaign that leverages an unexpected and memorable influencer to build awareness and brand loyalty.
  • Ariel Kelman, CMO of Oracle USA, and Dan Salzman, Global Head of Media, Analytics and Insights for HP, evangelized that to successfully bridge the gap and fully understand their customers, marketers need to integrate adtech and martech stacks, rather than glean data from each individually.
  • Peter Weinberg, Head of Development, B2B Institute at LinkedIn, demonstrated that “brand love” and top of mind awareness is key to future cash flows, even for B2B marketers.
  • And Anne Kawalerski, Bloomberg Media CMO, and Michelle Lynn, Global Head of Data Science and Insight, shared data that proves that purpose influences brand leadership for the long term.

The list goes on. Speaker after speaker presented new ideas and challenged the marketing community to think differently. Maybe COVID has forced us to reconsider how we think and what we do. It has rocked our expectations and changed our habits. If this leads to more creative thinking and better experiences for our employees and customers, it will be a huge silver lining to brands and businesses.